The San Francisco 49ers dominated the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football in Mexico City, 38-10, and made a bold statement to the rest of the NFL. They played their best game of the season in all three phases of the game, offensive, defense, and special teams. There are not a lot of questions surrounding the San Francisco 49ers, but after dominating the Cardinals in prime time, one question comes to mind: are the San Francisco 49ers the best team in the NFC?
San Francisco 49ers the team to beat in the NFC?
After their convincing win on Monday Night in Mexico City, the San Francisco 49ers sit atop the NFC West division. They have a record of 6-4 on a three-game win streak, but most importantly, they remain undefeated against teams in their division. The 49ers played their most complete game of the season, starting with the offense and starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo, by far, played his best game of the season for the 49ers. He completed 20 of 29 passes, with 228 passing yards, no interceptions, and four touchdown passes. He was clean, crisp, and efficient all game against a decent Cardinals defense, where he distributed the football to all his offensive targets effectively. Garoppolo, who gets a lot of flack and slander from talking heads and fans for throwing interceptions and turning the ball over, executed head coaches Kyle Shanahan’s game plan flawlessly.
Garoppolo has been effective this year but has been exceptional against the entire NFC West. Per Jordan Elliott, writer of Niners nation, Garoppolo has been lethal and surgical against 49ers division rivals. He has a 69 percent completion percentage, over eight hundred passing yards, eight touchdowns, and zero interceptions, with a passer rating of over 120.
Garoppolo has been highly effective this season and has shown critics why the 49ers made the right choice to keep him instead of cutting him or trading him to another team in the offseason. He has been playing like a top-five player on the 49ers and a pro bowl caliber player for the NFC. Garoppolo has been a significant factor in why the 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFC. Monday night in Mexico City showed that when the 49ers play complementary football and utilize all their weapons on offense, they are one of the elite teams in the NFL.
McCaffrey Factor for San Francisco 49ers
Before the acquisition of Christian McCaffrey, the 49er’s offense was one of the better offenses in the NFC. However, after McCaffrey joined the 49ers offense, they have been one of the NFL’s most lethal and explosive offenses. Per Akash Anavarthan of NinersNation, the 49ers are averaging just over 30 points per contest over the last three games. To put that into perspective, over a whole NFL season, that would be the best in the NFL over an entire season.
The addition of superstar running back McCaffrey before the trade deadline elevated the 49ers’ offense to another level. McCaffrey gives an element that the 49ers never had in the backfield. His presence on the field alone, whether in the backfield or the slot, spreads out the opposing defense and allows other star players on offense, like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle, to have more space and one on one coverage to make plays in open space.
His presence was felt on Monday night in Mexico City when the 49ers’ offensive performance was at an elite level this season. Finishing with 38 total points, 142 rushing yards, 228 passing yards, four touchdowns, no turnovers, and 60 percent on third down opportunities, the 49ers’ offense proved they are one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. The 49er’s offense is one of the main reasons they are one of the best teams in the NFC, but we must remember the 49ers’ defense is elite.
The San Francisco 49ers’ Defense is Elite
The 49ers’ offense gets a lot of the credit and publicity for their three-game win streak, but their defense has been just as good, maybe even better. DeMeco Ryans’ squad, in the second half of their games, has been dominant during their win streak. They have held their opponents to 58 total yards, 52 total yards, 49 total yards, and zero points in the second half of their last three games.
Nick Bosa led the 49ers’ defense, along with Fred Warner, Mooney Ward, and Jimmie Ward, and they are playing at an elite level. In addition, they are showing why they are one of the best, if not the best, defensive units in the NFL when healthy.
San Francisco 49ers Macro View
The San Francisco 49ers are getting healthy at the right time, with key impact players returning from injury for the second half of the season. With a win against Arizona, they moved to first place in the NFC West and jumped to the third spot in the NFC playoff picture. The 49ers have a plus 63 point differential, which is third in the NFC behind the Cowboys and Eagles, and are first in the NFL in DVOA, defense-adjusted value over average since acquiring McCaffrey.
Since acquiring McCaffrey, they are trending upward toward being a title contender this season. With the elite defense and the explosive and creative offense, the 49ers have shown why they are the Best team in the NFC heading into the play push. The 49ers have a challenging stretch with three straight home games against the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They look to continue winning streak against three formidable teams with star players on both sides of the ball.
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